, Volume 96, Issue 2, pp 249-263

Private Equity and the Public Good

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Abstract

The dominance of agency theory can reduce our collective scope to analyse private equity in all its diversity and depth. We contribute to theorisation of private equity by developing a contrasting perspective that draws on a rich tradition of virtue ethics. In doing so, we juxtapose ‘private equity’ with ‘public good’ to develop points of rhetorical and analytical contrast. We develop a typology differentiating various forms of private equity, and focus on the ‘take private’ form. These takeovers are where private equity funds are used to buy all a firm’s publicly listed shares. Take private deals reduce reporting requirements and lessen the amount of public scrutiny a firm comes under. They allow greater control of a firm’s assets and resources but also have effects in terms of the wider social fabric. The ‘public good’ and virtue ethics offer an alternative basis for theorisation of these deals. This provides a needed contrast to accounts of private equity based on agency theory.